Keegan to fight on despite anticlimax

Newcastle United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1

A tidal wave of disappointment, which has been gathering momentum for the past 10 weeks, rolled down the Tyne last night. In its wake lay Newcastle's championship hopes, wrecked by their own self-destructive urges as much as by Manchester United's springtime surge or Tottenham Hotspur's steadfast defences.

Despite a spirited late rally that would have conjured an 18th home victory if shots by Lee Clark and David Ginola had not struck the crossbar, the flood of goals never materialised and in any case, the ripples from the Tees carried only grim tidings. A season which promised so much thus ended in desperate anticlimax for Newcastle, which all the talk of the club's highest position since the title campaign of 1926-27 could not assuage.

The fear for the grieving Magpies, whose replica shirts made them resemble a giant bar-code surrounding St James' Park, was that Kevin Keegan might decide that if he could not win the Premiership after a transfer outlay of pounds 45m, then he was never likely to do it.

The Newcastle manager revealed himself to be an emotional man during the run-in, yet he was calmness personified after the match as he responded to media speculation that he was about to take his ball away.

"It's absolute garbage," Keegan said. "I'll still be here next season. Of course, it's disappointing but there are a lot of pluses to the season, the biggest being our supporters. We're still trying to build a team as good as them. We're very close now.

"In the meantime, our congratulations go to Manchester United. Everyone talks about our collapse, but that doesn't really do credit to them. They've got a young team, with a few old heads, and you can't take it away from them.

"If people say I made mistakes, I did - but I made them for the right reasons. People have enjoyed watching us play. With the benefit of hindsight, I might have changed some things. But I've bought some wonderful characters, some great players from abroad, and now we've got the close season to integrate them and have another go. There might not be as much money to spend - the chairman says the pen is drying up - but we'll still be playing the same way, scoring goals and letting them in."

Within the second half of that equation lies an uncomfortable truth about Newcastle. Defensively, they are not among the Premiership's better organised units, a fact that has been ruthlessly exposed in a succession of recent away games. For that reason, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that Newcastle threw the championship away. They led the table from August until the last week in March, although cracks were already appearing before then.

Spending millions on Faustino Aprilla, not long after Newcastle had opened up a 12-point advantage, is inevitably seen by many Newcastle fans as a watershed. The balance of a side, whereby two natural wingers were supplying the ammunition for Les Ferdinand, was altered overnight to accommodate the maverick Colombian.

Keegan was having little truck with that one either. "If they blame him for what happened here, or David Batty who came around the same time, it would be an absolute travesty. Asprilla was absolutely brilliant when he came on in the final half-hour today."

By then it was far too late. The faithful had arrived hoping for the best, which would have involved an almighty favour from Middlesbrough, but expecting the worst. "It's not over yet," the Tannoy announcer roared shortly before kick-off, having first stoked the fires of indignation by suggesting that Alex Ferguson's recent mind games ought to earn him an FA disrepute charge.

The fervour fizzled out after 15 minutes, when word filtered through of David May's goal at the Riverside. Following a moment's silence as the implications sank in, around 36,000 people emitted a low groan, the mood transmitted itself to a team already betraying signs of weariness in their third match in seven days, and for long spells the visitors looked the sharper side.

Spurs, with the incentive of a possible Uefa Cup berth, defended resolutely with Sol Campbell and Gary Mabbutt outstanding, while breaking quickly and in numbers. They could have had a penalty as early as the second minute, when Batty tripped David Howells, and missed a good chance 60 seconds later as Mabbutt sent a free header over the bar.

Newcastle played a longer game than usual, which allowed their wingers little scope, and it was telling that Batty, with two long-range efforts which brought the best from Ian Walker, looked their likeliest scorer.

When a goal finally arrived, shortly before the hour, it went to Spurs. Jason Dozzell was allowed time and space in which to curl a low shot beyond the diving Shaka Hislop.

Enter Asprilla, seemingly intent on proving a point. With 19 minutes remaining he wriggled along the byline before cutting the ball back into the six-yard area. Les Ferdinand, for whom goals have come less easily since he scored 14 in the first 11 games, side-footed only his fourth in the final 12 matches.

At least Newcastle's season did not finish in a second home defeat. After nine months of performances that were positive to a fault, it was no more than they deserved.

Goals: Dozzell (57) 0-1; Ferdinand (71) 1-1.

Newcastle United (4-4-1-1): Hislop; Watson, Peacock, Albert, Elliott; Gillespie (Clark, 67), Lee, Batty, Ginola; Beardsley (Asprilla, 67); Ferdinand. Substitute not used: Barton.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Wilson, Campbell (Calderwood, 67), Mabbutt, Edinburgh; Anderton, Dozzell, Howells, Fox (Rosenthal, 84); Armstrong, Sheringham. Substitute not used: Day (gk).

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).

Booking: Newcastle Albert.

Man of the match: Mabbutt.

Attendance: 36, 589.

News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
New Articles
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all